The hit film and novel, Twilight, is usually overlooked for being a typical teen romance, but one which I believe should be recognised for its many religious themes and values.
The book, written by Stephenie Meyer, has evolved into an enormous franchise. In some ways, the fans idolise Twilight like a religion itself. Fans live by the novel as if it were the Bible and praise the characters like they were God.
It often goes unnoticed that Twilight actually reflects Christian beliefs, through the characters' morals and ideals.
One could argue that the Cullen family represent old-fashioned Christian beliefs. They have solid morals about only killing animals and having sex after marriage. "I don't want to be a monster", says Edward.
Throughout the franchise, he refuses sex out of the belief that it is immoral to do so before marriage. Reference to Christianity is not pushed upon the audience, though the association here is noticeable.
As it says in Hebrews 13.4, 'Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.'
Carlisle Cullen, essentially the head of the family, also exemplifies a religious figure in Twilight. He openly believes in the afterlife and the existence of a God. The book notes that Carlisle was raised by a pastor and was one himself. He also declares that his faith encouraged him to become a doctor and save lives, despite being a natural killer.
In the 2008 film, the setting shows signs of a Christian household, with symbolic crosses being shown at points. Author Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon and this may explain these associations with Christianity.
However, there are still 'bad vampires' in Twilight, with opposing dispositions and beliefs. Meyer presents Christianity in the 'good vampires'- the Cullen clan - yet not in the others, a typical good versus evil set-up. Again, this reflects her personal religious beliefs as a Mormon, suggesting that in her eyes, religious characters are of a good nature.
Many Christians disapprove of reading and watching Twilight because, despite the religious themes and values, the story exposes audiences to challenging issues like murder, death, and the occult, which run throughout the narrative.
In any religion, followers aspire to live eternally. The message of eternity is discussed in Twilight, but with regard to topics other than religion - in this case, love.
Leading protagonist, Bella Swan, desires to live eternally with Edward. She later asks for him to 'take her soul'. A strong Christian believer could argue that no one should take a soul except God. We, as Christians, should want to spend eternity with God. In Twilight, the one who should be the central figure, God, is replaced with a love interest, Edward Cullen. This particular message contradicts with most faiths and may overshadow the other exciting features of Twilight for Christian viewers.
This is not only the case with Twilight. Other films, and equally, forms of media and music, challenge Christians today. Where to draw the line?
For me, Twilight is an addictive novel and film that I personally love. My Christian beliefs and relationship with God are not at all challenged when I delve into Meyer's engrossing story. This may be due to my young age and frequent exposure to stories like this – it is hard to avoid them. But having been raised as a Christian, I can recognise boundaries and these stop me from being culturally influenced by Twilight and the controversial parts of pop culture. I may admire the actors, Robert Pattinson in particular, but I do not love him to the point where he has become a God to me.
Understandably, Christians may worry about adolescents who do not have a faith and who may be badly influenced by the media. In some ways, Twilight does encourage people to examine the occult. Online vampire groups even exist. In the same way, Harry Potter and its wizardry have inspired events, websites and recent theme park attractions - the list is endless.
Media has been a huge influence on society and will continue to be so. But we have to allow ourselves to be guided by our faith and allow it to have a say in what we watch and listen to.
Millions of people of no faith are watching movies that we may challenge, but if we avoid them completely then we are missing out on an experience – from having a meaningful conversation with our friends, to appreciating the good versus evil stories so often at the heart of films like Twilight.
Despite much criticism, I think Meyer's subtle metaphors and themes only serve to enhance her characters, making those who hold Christian traits more lovable and relatable, and ultimately presenting Christianity and the morals it embodies in an attractive light. Should Christians be withdrawing themselves and their children from compelling fictional stories just because they disagree with some aspects of it? I think not. If anything, such stories can affirm our faith and strengthen our own awareness of being forces for good in the world.